We are unable to display your institutional affiliation without JavaScript turned on.
Browse Book and Journal Content on Project MUSE

Find using OpenURL

Editor’s Introduction: The Haunting and the Haunted
In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

Haunting . . . alters the experience of being in time, the way we separate the past, the present, and the future. . . . [S]pecters or ghosts appear when the trouble they represent and symptomize is no longer being contained or repressed or blocked from view. The ghost, as I understand it, is not the invisible or some ineffable excess. The whole essence, if you can use that word, of a ghost is that it has a real presence and demands its due, your attention.

Multi-ethnic literature is frequently a haunted space—a realm where ghosts overturn tables or sit heavily on students, dead ancestors speak to living generations, conjurers turn people into trees or foxes, and rivers of blood run uphill rather than down. In what ways do acts of conjuring, haunting, and ghosting both mark what Avery F. Gordon describes as the sociological harm inflicted by a social violence done in the past or in the present but also “ghost back” against this sociological or psychological violence, showing the way “past” harm persists into the present and future? According to Gordon, “haunting is one way in which abusive systems of power make themselves known and their impacts felt in everyday life, especially when they are supposedly over and done with” (xvi); understanding haunting is therefore crucial for “grasping the nature of our society and for changing it” (27). Many of the essays gathered in this issue of MELUS illustrate the political force of haunting—they show that only when something is appropriately remembered can social progress or healing of any sort begin. “Disremembered and unaccounted for,” Morrison writes of the eponymous title character in Beloved, who comes to represent the entire history of slavery, “[s]he cannot be lost because no one is looking for her, and even if they were, how can they call her if they don’t know her name?” (274). Knowing and claiming the disremembered and unaccounted for events, bodies, and identities that haunt US history is vital to social progress, and the essays in this issue illustrate how reading and writing can ghost back against the erasure of past events but also move society and individuals beyond fragmentation, toward forms of remembrance and coherence.

Our issue starts with five essays that scrutinize events with which we have not reckoned and that still trouble us (such as 9/11 and slavery) and with bodies and psyches that are haunted by the past, present, and future. One of the unresolved events in US history is certainly 9/11, as our first two essays indicate. About the events of September 11, as Sirène Harb notes in her essay in this issue, Michael Rothberg writes: “[W]e need ultimately to ‘catch up’ to the events, to move forward and backward from them in order to work through their traumatic impact and to address the social and political contexts that help to foster (without necessarily leading to) acts of extreme violence” (151). In an atmosphere characterized by animosity and fear against Arab Americans, Arab American writers took up the challenge of representing these events, demonstrating that they understood the danger of silence and forgetting, as Harb argues in “Arab American Women’s Writing and September 11: Contrapuntality and Associative Remembering.” Harb elucidates an associative remembering practice and a contrapuntal reading of history that refuses to allow these events to be silenced or ghosted. Indeed, texts such as Rabab Abdulhadi’s “Where Is Home? Fragmented Lives, Border Crossings, and the Politics of Exile” (2001), Suheir Hammad’s “first writing since” (2001), Dima Hilal’s “america” (2004), Mohja Kahf’s “We Will Continue Like Twin Towers” (2003), and Naomi Shihab Nye’s “Letter from Naomi Shihab Nye, Arab-American Poet: To Any Would-Be Terrorists” (2001) articulate a vision of history, memory, and identity that, like haunting itself, breaks down divisions between past and present, “us” and “them,” what happens “over here” and what happens “over there.” Harb shows how these writers reconfigure the trauma of September 11 “across multiple spaces of memory, bringing together the devastation of New York City and the massacres of Sabra and Shatila or the war-related destruction of Beirut”; they thereby catalyze...

You must be logged in through an institution that subscribes to this journal or book to access the full text.


Shibboleth authentication is only available to registered institutions.

Project MUSE

For subscribing associations only.